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​Recovering from the wildfires: Tips for parents and caregivers

From damaged and lost property, to the emotional impact of being displaced, to images of destroyed areas and overwhelming uncertainty– disasters and emergencies like the Alberta wildfires take a big toll on us.  Kids and teens can be especially vulnerable during disasters and in the days that follow. Kids’ reactions to the fires and the aftermath are influenced by parents and caregivers, and they often turn to these adults for help and support.

Here are some ways to help the kids in your life following the Alberta wildfires.
  • Remember that feelings of anxiety, worrying about safety, and fears of separation are very common and generally will lessen with time in both kids and adults. Other common reactions to be aware of include:
    • Changes in behaviour such as increased irritability, clinginess, angry outbursts, decreased attention, or aggression
    • Fears of wildfires spreading, or new ones starting
    • Distress and anxiety from reminders of the fires, or evacuation, such as sirens or the smell of smoke
    • Increased physical complaints, like upset stomachs or headaches
    • Change in sleep patterns
    • Fixation on fire and the wildfires, such as play acting the events or drawing pictures
    • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Spend time talking with your kids, make sure they know it’s okay to ask questions and to express their fears and concerns
  • Answer questions honestly, but also ask your children for their opinions and ideas
  • Take care of yourself. It’s easy to not take care of ourselves when we’re focused on making sure our kids are ok, but it’s important to make sure you eat, sleep, get proper care and give yourself a break. You’ve gone through something traumatic too.
  • While many fears and anxieties will decrease over time, consider seeing a doctor or other health professional if you are concerned about yourself or someone in your care.
The Canadian Red Cross is on the ground in Alberta, where we are working hard to help those impacted by the fires. We will continue to be there in the days, months and even years as Albertans recover.

For more information about how to help the young people in your life, and where to find important resources, check out this guide to wildfire recovery for parents and caregivers. 
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